Saturday, December 3, 2016

Guest Post: Some of Our Family's Favorite Christmas Songs

And today I present you with another fun Christmas guest post! This one was written by one of my lovely younger sisters! ^_^

I hope you enjoy!


Some of our family's favorite
Christmas songs

Hi guys! The Christmas season is here! Are you all excited?!? These are some of  my family's and my favorite Christmas songs!

This is one of my favorite singers! :) The First Noel sung by Josh Turner

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Born on Christmas Day by Brad Paisley - This is probably one off my favorite Christmas songs.

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This is one of my sister Natasha's favorites :) Mary Did You Know sung by Scotty McCreery

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My older brother prefers the new Christmas songs. Come and Worship by Bebo Norman

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Shantelle loves this one! Chris Tomlin - Noel ft. Lauren Daigle

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Baby Brother even has a "best" song! There is a Star featuring Sarah Macintosh

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Of course, you can't forget the classics!  The First Noel sung by Scotty McCreery

O Come All Ye Faithful sung by Casting Crowns

Joy to the World sung by George Strait

Angels We Have Heard On High sung by Chris Tomlin

Hark the Herald Angels Sing sung by Jeremy Camp

We Three Kings sung by George Strait

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Here are some of the fun Christmas songs! :) Santa Looks a Lot Like Daddy sung by George Strait

Christmas Cookies sung by George Strait. My dad usually sings part of this song when he wants us to make him some Christmas cookies. :)

Jingle Bells sung by Lauren Daigle

Yeah, so there are some awesome songs that we all like!

You can collect your favorite songs on MP3va.com! We usually only pay $ .15 a track too! Then we make ourselves a CD to enjoy. You do have to put $15 into your account when you register with them, but if you are like us, you will find enough songs to buy.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales


Purchase HERE

Title: Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales

Author: Elisabeth Grace Foley // Rachel Heffington // J. Grace Pennington // Emily Ann Putzke // Suzannah Rowntree // Hayden Wand

Series: Standalone Novellas

Genre: Historical/Fairy Tale Retelling/Dystopian

Audience: Young Adult

ABOUT THE BOOK

Six fairytales you thought you knew, set against a tapestry of historical backgrounds.

A lonely girl plots revenge in the shadow of a mountain. A stolen princess fumbles a century backward. A dwarfish man crafts brilliant automatons. A Polish Jew strikes matches against the Nazis. A dead girl haunts a crystal lake. A terrified princess searches a labyrinth. A rich collection of six historically inspired retellings, Once is a new generation of fairytales for those who thought they'd heard the tales in all their forms.

Featuring the novellas of Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand.


~ MY REVIEW ~
**4 stars**

Take a look at that gorgeous cover! It’s divine! ^_^ Dive into this new collection of fairy tale retellings to find history, dystopian worlds, time-travel excitement, western danger, suspense, and of course, romance!


***

The Mountain of the Wolf by Elisabeth Grace Foley. A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, this western historical tale was one I quite enjoyed. It’s non-magical, and set in the mountains were outlaws lurk and herds of wild horses roam free.
The writing style is akin to the style of the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series; and while whimsical and old-fashioned, it can be slow and isn’t my favorite ever. That being said, The Mountain of the Wolf was still a great story, and I loved that ending—exciting and dangerous, and then utterly sweet. And the one part that really reminded me of the fairy tale it retells was fabulously-done!
A unique and lovely take on the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

She But Sleepeth by Rachel Heffington. I really like the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, but I honestly didn’t care for this retelling of it. Two reasons: it was a tragedy, and the characters were too acquainted with spells for my personal liking. “Sorcery” and “witching” were words I saw too often, and not only when speaking of the evil villain.
It was an interesting retelling, weaving a new Sleeping Beauty tale with bits of real historical figures and accounts, and the intrigue of time-travel. I wasn’t left bored.
But yes, the magic was a bit much for my taste. And the tale had such a heavy air about it—such sorrow and this feeling of being trapped or helpless. I prefer a tale where good triumphs over evil.

Rumpled by J. Grace Pennington. So I really loved this tale! My kind of story—and definitely the best retelling of Rumplestiltskin that I’ve read! This is the first time I’ve read by this author, and I’m glad I did; I will look for more books by her, for sure.
Set in a dystopian, sci-fi world, Rumpled quickly sweeps us into the intrigue of rags to riches, and webs of deception and fear. A young woman is caught up into a crazy scheme, set into motion by her bumbling father. The most unlikely of people comes to the rescue. A love story unfolds.
I quite adored the grace that layered this story. There were times of danger and drama. Breathless, heart-clenching scenes were you wondered how everything could work out right. And the sweetest of moments. The characters were just lovely—I truly liked both Amanda and her man. And the servants. And … yes. Rumpled was perfectly perfect, and I look forward to loosing myself in another story by J. Grace Pennington.

Sweet Remembrance by Emily Ann Putzke. I remember The Little Match Girl being such a tragic tale, but somehow sweet—bittersweet. That’s how this WWII retelling of the story was. I don’t like tragedies, but if you’re going to write one, write it like Emily Ann Putzke did with Sweet Remembrance.
It was captivating. The history of the Jews being brutally persecuted by Germans is hard—the kind of hard where the enormity of it steals the breath from your lungs for a moment. The lost dreams so bitter. But the remembering of a heartfelt romance so sweet. All in all, it’s a sad tale of a horrific time in history … but it ends with a curious kind of hope. A hope that I want to hold onto.
Very well written. A bittersweet, heart-tugging story of an ordinary girl in a terrible time.

Death Be Not Proud by Suzannah Rowntree. This was sort of a chilling tale. But then, one would expect a retelling of Snow White to be, considering the fairy tale tells of evil and jealousy and would-be-murderers. I really enjoyed that it was set in the Jazz Age, and the mystery/suspense was exciting and all worth it once you got to the end of the story. If you don’t like a story that’s a little bit spooky and has a couple mentions of gruesome speculation, then Death Be Not Proud may not be the best read for you. But I found I liked it. I didn’t find the spooky parts too overdone, and regardless of the doom in the title, it is a good story.
With mystery keeping you on the edge of your seat, Suzannah Rowntree delivers a unique story, about a singer and a man on a mission, that kept me guessing and left me satisfied.

With Blossoms Gold by Hayden Wand. A sweet retelling of Rapunzel, though set amidst the bitterness of war and panic attacks. Though I sometimes got frustrated with Nella, one of the main characters of the story, I appreciated her character development and the authenticity of the tale.
The romance was lovely; and our hero a likable character indeed! Some of his witty remarks had me chuckling to myself.
Overall it was a fine, non-magical fairy tale retelling; set in Italy and examining difficult issues. I quite enjoyed.


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Well, there you have it, my friends. On a whole, I was quite impressed with Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales. The stories were interesting, thoughtful, and different. The writing was very good.
Once isn’t exactly a light tome of fluffy fairy tales, but overall, it is a collection of superbly-written retellings. Check it out!

I received a copy of Once: Six Historically Inspired Fairytales from the authors.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Review: Black Tiger by Sara Baysinger


Purchase HERE

Title: Black Tiger

Author: Sara Baysinger

Series: Black Tiger #1

Genre: Dystopian/Science-Fiction

Audience: Young Adult - Adult

ABOUT THE BOOK

When the fire goes out, supposedly dead, the embers still remain, tiny specks of deadwood and ash that have the capacity to start a fire large enough to burn down an entire city.

Ember Carter is a sixteen-year-old farmer’s daughter who wants nothing more than to stay close to her family in the Community Garden when Career Day approaches. Unfortunately, all farming careers are given to boys, and besides, as of the past two years, all students have been drafted to the Line of Defenders to fight in a war no one seems to know about. When she meets Forest, the mysterious stranger who seems to know a bit too much about city life and the way the government is run, she’s even less eager to leave the safe haven of the Garden.

On Career Day, the future couldn’t look brighter when Ember is the only student assigned the career of a Farmer. But all hopes come to end when she attacks a Defender to save her best friend. Suspected a rebel and sentenced to death, she’s transferred to Frankfort Prison where she will carry out her sentence.

But Frankfort is full of surprises and snotty Patricians. While in prison, Ember learns a dark secret about Forest that makes her question what little she knew about him. And then there’s Rain,the carelessly handsome boy who enjoys instigating her just a bit too much. If that's not enough, the world learns something about Ember even she doesn’t know. A secret that brings her character into question, enlightens her on her mother’s true identity, and ultimately, gives her the power to affect the rise or fall of Ky.

With the handsome Forest tugging at her heart, and the rogue Rain whispering treasons into her ear, can Ember make the right decision that will redeem the corrupt government of Ky?

~ MY REVIEW ~
**5 stars**

This book. Deserves five stars. Fans of dystopian fiction, if you're searching for another thrilling read of that genre, look no further than Black Tiger by Sara Baysinger!

It's set in a fascinating futuristic world, akin to the DIVERGENT series, but unique in its own ways. Sixteen-year-old Ember Carter questions the ways of the government of Ky, (once known as Kentucky), but she can hardly speak out about it, because outside her home in the Garden, Defenders prowl, arresting anyone for words against the chief.
So as Career Day approaches, Ember stubbornly holds on to optimism, hoping that somehow she'll be chosen as a Farmer, and life will stay the same.
But she is Ember. And embers are meant to start fires.

Oh, how I love dystopian! After discovering Christian dystopian books, such as Nadine Brandes's OUT OF TIME series, I am constantly on the look out for more. And Black Tiger did not disappoint! The writing was fantastic - the words just grabbed a hold of me; pulled me in. It was so easy and intriguingly enjoyable to read. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, with surprising twists and turns. I thought the plot was great, having you wondering throughout the book ... breathless at the climax ... satisfied at the ending ... yet dying for Book Two! Very well done, Sara Baysinger! I loved this novel!

Something about Ember struck me as different from the mainstream fiction YA characters. She was more feeling; more soft inside. She was a blend of fieriness and fear. Determination and vulnerability. Anger and sensitivity. I really liked her, and look forward to reading the rest of her story!
Forest was first introduced as every YA hero seems to be. Breathtakingly handsome. (haha). I like him, but at the same time, I'm not sure I like him. (view spoiler)
Don't ask me why, but Rain is my favorite character. He came across as very real somehow; mysterious, but real. Passionate. Perhaps torn inside. Just a very complex character. I am really, really, really intrigued to see what happens next with him.

The romance-y stuff got a little frustrating for me, personally at times. But in the same breath, most of what happened was understandable. I am very interested to see where things go in the next book! (view spoiler)

The black tigers. EEEEE! They were simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. I literally felt the dread of them rushing through my veins.

Yes, the action, the thrills, the sheer adventure! There were royal balls, and there were prisons. Farmland holding apple trees and poor folk, and wealthy cities full of the powerful and proud. The characters were amazing. Intriguing. Black Tiger had/has me captivated.

The budding faith theme has my rapt attention. I'm excited to watch these characters discover their Creator. One quote I loved: "You are the Garden. God is the Sower."

A few cautions. I do recommend this book to about 18 and up, depending on what you're used of reading. There was a bit of mild language, and one or two crude phrases. Some things are mentioned and scenes described that are not suitable for a younger audience; (view spoiler). Also, the majority of the people of Ky have drinking habits that were a little uncomfortable for me. So yes, some of the content in Black Tiger was edgy, and demands a mature audience.
However, most of the characters in this book don't know God (yet); but even so, still see that what Ky calls "acceptable" and "entertainment" is truly evil and corrupt.
Some of the characters are confusing, but you have to keep reading to understand their actions.

I cannot wait for the second book to the BLACK TIGER series! Enthralling! Can hardly wait to see what's going to happen next! Ember, Rain, Forest, Elijah, and Jonah are on my mind and I'm thoroughly intrigued!

For those who love dystopian, Sara Baysinger has written a work of fiction that you do not want to miss!

(And isn't that cover fabulous? I need to get this book on my bookshelf!)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Guest Post: Gift List

I'm so delighted to have a "guest writer" on A Writer's Heart today, who happens to be my own lovely mother! Take time to read her fabulous post! I hope you enjoy! ^_^


I am extremely pleased to introduce myself to you as Shantelle's Mom!  She is a gem and I love her to pieces!
I am a wife of almost 22 years, homeschooling mother of 8 children, whom I cherish more with each passing day.

Christmas is approaching, and if you are from a large family like ours, so are some birthdays and perhaps some weddings and other family events. I am excited to share with you our favorite, tried and true items we have discovered over the years that we think may help you in your gift giving.

Gift Ideas from our House to Yours

  • CHILDREN & FAMILY



Our doll has made it through many moves, being left outside in the dirt and stuffed at the bottom of the toy box over the last 10 years and her hair is still nice!



High-quality animals for display or pretend play. These are some of the favorite gifts my kids have received. You can find these at Walmart and other farm supply stores too.



Spot It is a fast and fun game that the whole family can play together! It's one we like to pull out when we have new families over.



One year we bought these neat cars as a family gift. Big and little kids alike enjoyed them. Unfortunately ours got stolen and we haven't splurged on new ones yet.



Although we bought these Science DVD's for schooling, all the younger siblings like to watch them too! Wes makes science interesting, even for those of us who don't have much interest. He also has Chemistry and Physics.


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  • BABIES



I love that these are just pure Maple wood and made in the USA! Our last baby loved these and they still look new!



Another one of ours liked this teething ring.



A friend gifted us Burt's Bees Organic PJ's when our last baby was born. Very soft and very much a favorite. I have found several pairs of these at TJ Maxx.



Relaxing, Soothing, Comforting CD. Jesus Loves Me sung, by Kristy Nockels', on this CD is simply beautiful!


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  • DADS, MEN and BOYS



After seeing such rave reviews, I bought my Dad this for Father's Day. It really is a great massager and helps relieve tension in the neck and shoulders. I will definitely gift again!



We found one of these at a garage sale and love it for hauling wood into the house. Handy and keeps everything clean!!



Every year our son would request a toy dirt bike for his birthday, and every year it would soon be broken. Until he found this one online. Not only is it sturdy enough for his toddler brother to play with, it can be taken apart, has suspension and looks really cool!



The men in our home are always happy to open a bag of good old beef jerky! Walmart carries this brand, which seems a little healthier.



We have an Alaskanite lantern like this, but they are out of stock. Here is one that looks a lot like it with great reviews.



This is seriously the coolest little flashlight I have ever seen! Our oldest son gave this with his Father's day gift and it's perfect as it fits in your pocket (or purse, ladies!) and is unbelievably bright! Takes only 1 AA battery. Hubby uses it for hunting all the time. Just keep an extra battery in your pack. ;)



We have several of these bright flashlights and highly recommend them. Ours were purchased at Costco.



A great tool to help diagnose what is wrong with your car.  A couple men in our family have these.



Gourmet coffee, and one of the healthiest ways to make it as well! Works perfectly for steeping loose-leaf tea too.


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  • MOTHERS and WOMEN and YOUNG LADIES


Super fun to journal and get creative with! I like that they don't bleed through the paper like other colored pens do.
I bought a small pack of these at Walmart during their back-to-school sale.



I love this beautifully illustrated and well directed prayer journal! Whimsical drawings throughout are meant to be colored.



Adult coloring books are wildly popular right now and I like to give them as gifts. This one has inspirational saying amidst fun coloring.
Not too detailed.



This is another item that is on my list to buy! Love this one!



Great for older girls up to adults! (this one's on our "to buy" list)



I tried every other cheaper sharpener there was before buying the same one my mom has had for years. It's the best! Break out the colored pencils, girls!



Traditional hymns that you can sing along with! Did I mention their lovely voices?!



What woman doesn't like chocolate? This bar satisfies my chocolate craving while boasting a mere 7 grams of sugar per 1.7 oz. serving!
If you have an Aldi's near you, it's cheaper there. In fact, I was just in Aldi's today buying a bar and another woman points to it and says, "The best chocolate you can find".  Warning: The 85% is  for the woman who likes really dark chocolate or can't have much sugar.



I bought this several years ago after a lot of research on ways to clean up household air. I love the soft and relaxing light it gives off and have even used it as a night light.



This is a great diffuser that won't brake you budget. I have been using mine for many years. Use a well-review essential oil as there are cheap ones that are not always pure.



We like Eden's Garden's JOY.



NOW brand is also known to be good. And Ylang Ylang has a lovely floral smell and is known for balancing homones.



Another brand I have been told, by Naturopaths, is Aura Cacia. Tea Tree oil is something I grew up using for infections, bacteria, viruses, and cleaning. It's something we always have in our house.



Purchase from JCPenny HERE

The best bath towels I have ever came upon. Soft, absorbent, Not too bulky, perfect size, 100% cotton. Maybe I'm weird, but I'd love to receive these towels for a gift! You can find them on Amazon, but JC Pennys always seems to have a sale on them.



Thanks to our son, who has a degree in computer technology and did a lot of research for us, we bought this SLR camera and our blooming photographer has taken some gorgeous photos with it! Great camera!


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  • CHEFS          


This has been our all-time favorite peeler. It works well on everything from sweet potatoes to kiwis.



Another favorite utensil.



Every chef needs some "tea towels". These are great for personalizing, decorative stitching, or a child's hand-print.



We received this Bosch mixer for a wedding gift 22 years ago and it is still going strong! In fact, I just made a huge batch (22 cups flour) of french bread.



I bought my Vitamix blender used and love it! This is an amazing blender that will last you years! I know someone who bought one 20 years ago and still uses it every day!



I was so excited to find this great cookbook that my old neighbor authored on Amazon! Mine is just as much a display piece as a recipe book, with extra-extra thick pages full of scrumptious looking dishes and their recipes.

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Do you have a favorite item that you would buy again in a heartbeat? One that makes you so excited to give? What was the best gift you have ever been given?